By Sarah Cummings
Getting great sleep and being a caregiver often don’t go hand in hand. You might work long and irregular hours, you’re often stressed or anxious, and you carry all the weight of someone else’s difficulties upon your shoulders. Meaning that when it comes time to lay down your head, it’s often hard to switch off all that noise and fall soundly asleep.
But it’s very important that you try to get sufficient, good-quality sleep on a regular basis. Now, this is true for everyone; children, adults and even pets alike. Because sleep is the best way to obtain a healthier, happier lifestyle – no medication necessary, and it’s free, too!
Particularly if you’re caring for someone, you need to stay as rested as possible.
1. Sleep boosts your health
If you feel lethargic and sluggish, find yourself falling ill often, and are regularly out on sick leave… well, it doesn’t sound like the ingredients of a great carer! Sleep is what we need to keep our immune system strong, to fight off all manner of physical ailments and to keep us fit and energised throughout the day. Meaning that we don’t pass on whatever new bug we’ve picked up to the person we’re caring for.
Mentally, a good night’s sleep just makes everything a bit rosier; hence the expression “things will look better in the morning”. It can help to keep anxiety, stress and depression at bay, enabling you to be a more positive, attentive caregiver.
2. Sleep makes you kinder
You know those nights when you sleep badly and end up on the warpath the following day? Everything and everyone irritates you and you find yourself falling victim to road rage, snapping at a colleague, or even resenting your patients.
Staying well-rested, on the other hand, helps you to be a more patient, tolerant and mindful person. You won’t be quick to judge another’s actions, nor will you be so hard on yourself. Instead, you’ll be peaceful and calm in the face of whatever challenges life throws up. Think of the most generous, loving people you know. Chances are, they sleep very well at night!
3. Sleep improves creativity
As a caregiver, it might frustrate you at times to think how isolated, scared, and bored a patient might be. To alleviate the feelings of isolation, you offer company. To help manage fears you listen to their concerns and respond with advice and support. But how do you combat boredom?
In the day-to-day routine of simply getting your patient up, making sure they eat, bringing them to the bathroom etc, it can often be easy to forget that they need mental stimulation. Something to spark their creativity and actually bring more enjoyment to their day.
If you get enough rest at night, you can bring more excitement to the ordinary. Because sleep actually improves creativity! You’ll be able to think of innovative and fun activities to do with the people you’re caring for; giving them company and friendship but also a nice distraction while you’re at it.
4. Sleep enhances cognitive function
And therefore, it makes you better at your job. When we sleep, our brain makes new neural connection. It also replays events from the day and basically puts them in long-term storage, in a process called consolidation.
What this means is that sleep improves our memory and gives our brain a workout. The result for caregivers? You’ll remember your patients’ birthdays, their grandkids’ names, and even their favourite biscuits. You’ll be able to offer them a more personalised, thoughtful service because of it as they’ll think of you like a friend, not just someone doing their job.
Plus, with the better brain power that sleep gives you, you’ll be able to make smarter decisions faster, to be more productive… and to basically be the best caregiver you can be.
Now, the reasons above explain why caregivers should focus on better sleep. But really, we could all benefit from being healthier, kinder, more creative and smarter people, couldn’t we? I think so. And that’s why it’s so important to take your sleep seriously; whether that means researching ways to sleep better or simply cutting out those habits you know that you know aren’t good for you (like that 10pm cup of coffee, for instance).
Once you start paying attention to the way in which you sleep, and take measures to actively improve it, you’ll notice the difference it makes to your work and personal life. You’ll be a better caregiver, a happier person and a more rested individual as a result.
Hi, I’m Sarah. Since I started writing about sleep a couple of years ago, I’ve really noticed how important it is in our society. Yet still so few of us realise just how much happier and healthier it can make us! That’s my current goal...to spread the word about the joy of sleep and to help people live better lives because of it!